Government by Assassination

So – Osama bin Laden’s dead and any day now we’ll be told that another ‘public enemy number one’, Colonel Gaddafi’s son has also been killed in the noble cause of bringing democracy to the world.

Have the West really reached such rock bottom in world governance that its main policy is assassination of people it doesn’t approve of? It seems we have returned to the ways of the ancient Roman Empire, although then it was done with knives and poison. Now it is done by NATO air strikes and covert operations by Special Forces.

Who gave the West permission to override international law and act as judge, jury and executioner?

The hypocrisy of Western governments pontificating (very selectively at that) about other states’ war crimes is hard to stomach. No one would dispute that under Gaddafi’s leadership towns have been shelled by government forces and civilians killed, acts for which someone should be tried. Serial killers are allowed their day in court, and a chance to defend themselves, but it seems ‘public enemies’ are allowed nothing but assassination. With every act the West makes it clear it considers itself above international law, while it points the judgmental finger at other states and interferes by sending in the troops.

The killing of Saif al-Arab Gaddafi on 30 April as a result of a NATO air strike on what was apparently a domestic dwelling has caused a huge amount of anger in Tripoli, along with furious attacks on foreign embassies. It has also greatly strengthened the belief, not just among Libyans, that NATO is quite deliberately targeting Gaddafi himself. Regime change in Libya is for Libyans to decide. For any other state to try to force regime change is against international law. And how much more illegal would it be to achieve that by assassination?

Then again, no one would dispute that under bin Laden’s leadership Al Qaeda has been responsible for violent acts resulting in many gruesome civilian deaths and injuries. But these are criminal acts for which the perpetrators should be tried in court.

If the US knew where bin Laden was living (and it has been suggested that they have known since last September), why didn’t they simply ask Pakistan to send the police in to arrest him? I know that sounds extremely simplistic, but both diplomatically and legally that is what should have happened, and in terms of world public relations it could, possibly, have been a coup for the US. Instead they send in the Special Forces with its accompanying hail of bullets. Why wait until now, unless it suited Obama’s agenda? Who knows how many really died in that attack? And why the ‘burial at sea’, or rather, what are they trying to hide? We can look forward to a whole host of theories on that, none of which will help end terrorism or bring peace to the world.

Robert Fisk, speaking on Al Jazeera, pointed out how irrelevant bin Laden and Al Qaeda had become following the tide of revolution that has swept North Africa and the Middle East. The people on the streets did not want an Islamic Caliphate. They wanted freedom. In his words, they wanted to ‘be able to breathe’.

From Tunisia onwards, the demonstrations have taken Al Qaeda out of the political game. Al Qaeda, Fisk said, had been as surprised as the West by the uprisings and, apart from the bombing in Marrakech on 29 April, had been remarkable for its lack of activity, not knowing how to react. And like many commentators, he feared that bin Laden’s assassination will result in a wave of retaliatory suicide bombings around the world.

Both in the US and Britain, the security threat level has now been increased. One can expect the same in France and Italy, our partners in the Libyan air strikes. In other words, by their actions, and their determination to govern by assassination, our governments have vastly increased the threat of global terrorism and the public’s risk of being blown up.

Perhaps they don’t want an end to the ‘war on terror’. Perhaps they want us all to rebel so that they can crack down and try to assassinate the lot of us. The Roman Empire went through an orgy or assassination and in-fighting, until it reached the point when it became too vulnerable to survive. It collapsed, as empires do. Now it is happening again. Soon the Empire of the West will, in its desperation to control the world, do something so outrageously illegal that it will manufacture its own collapse. Will men in power never learn?

Lesley is a lover of animals, campaigns and writes on war/peace, climate change and the environment. She is the former editor of Abolish War. Read other articles by Lesley.